Calvin Theological Journal 36 (2001): 290-313
Copyright © 2001 by Calvin Theological Seminary, cited with permission;
digitally prepared for use at
Psalm 67: Blessing, Harvest and History1
A Proposal for Exegetical Methodology
Eep Talstra and Carl J. Bosma
In the Old Testament documents there are a number of references or allu-
sions to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. One can therefore conclude
that the priestly blessing plays a significant role in Old Testament literature
generally. However, echoes of this blessing are especially frequent in the book
The obvious cross-references to Numbers 6:24-26 in the Psalter confirm the
cultic setting of the words of the blessing as is clear from the formulation of the
priestly task in Numbers 6. However, one should note an important difference
between psalms that allude to Numbers 6:24-26 and the text of Numbers 6:24-26
itself. Numbers 6:22-27 clearly distinguishes between the words to be spoken by
the priests (Num. -26) and the act of blessing itself, which is to be performed
by Yahweh. Shortly after the blessing formula is given, the text adds in verse 273:
“Thus they [i.e. the priests] will put my
Name on the sons of
but I am the one who will bless them." :MkerEbAxE ynixEv;
But the same clear distinction of responsibilities cannot be found in echoing
the language of the Psalms. That fact may make the reader cautious. With every
psalmic text that refers to Numbers 6:24-26, one faces the question of how the
echoes of the priestly benediction are to be understood. Are they to be taken
as a wish, a confident statement of fact (either past or present), a prayer, an
intention, an obligation--which?
1 The authors thank Professor Emeritus John H. Stek for reading the manuscript and
for helping with matters of English style.
2 For the request for and promise of a divine blessing see: Pss 3:8; ; 28:9;
29:11; 109:28; 115:12-13, 15; 128:5 (hvAhya j~k;r,bAy;); 129:8; 134:3 (hvAhy; j~k;r,bAy;); etc. For the
request for and promise of divine protection see: Pss 12:7; 16:1; 17:8; 25:20; 34:22; 37:28;
41:3; 86:2; 97:10; 116:6; 121:3,5, 7 (j~r;mAw;yi) and 8; 141:5; 145:20 and 146:9. For the
manifestation of the Lord's radiant countenance see: Pss 4:6; 31:16; 67:1; 80:3,
7, 19; 119:135; etc. For the request for grace and favor see: Pss 4:1; 6:2; 25:16;
31:910; 41:4,10; 51:1.; 56:1; 57:1; 86:3; 119:58. For peace (MOlWA) see:
Pss 125:5 and 128:6.
3 Cf. P.A H. De Boer, "Numbers VI 27," Vetus Testamentum 32 (1982): 3-13.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 291
All these options are reflected in the treatment of Psalm 67 in commentaries
and translations. This psalm contains the strongest parallels to the sacerdotal
benediction in the Psalter. Verse 2 uses three (out of six) key verbs from
Numbers -26, but, as the following synoptic comparison shows, presents
them in a slightly different order:
Psalm 67:2 Numbers 6:24-25
Unn.HAy Myfilox< a
Unker;bAyvi b hvAhy; j~k;r,bAy; 24a
. . .
UnTAxi vynAPA rxeyA c j~l,xe vynAPA hvAhy; rxeyA 25a
God, may he be gracious to us May Yahweh bless you. . .
and bless us; May Yahweh cause his face to shine
may he make his face shine towards to you
us. and may he be gracious to you.
Moreover, verses 7b-8a also repeat the key verb Unker;bAy; from verse 2b, but, as
will be demonstrated, interpreters and translators do not agree about the trans-
lation of this yiqtol (=imperfect) verb.4
The setting reflected in Psalm 67 may indeed be the temple cult, but, unlike
the blessing proper in Numbers 6:24-26, the words of blessing in verses 2, 7b-8a
are not on the lips of the priest(s) pronouncing blessing on the people.
Instead, the speaker is identified with the recipients of the blessing and prays
on their behalf: "May God bless us." Moreover, the context refers to "all the
nations" (v. 3b) and "all the peoples" (vv. 4b, 6b) and speaks of the land and its
harvest (v. 7a).
From the exegetical literature on Psalm 67, one can readily discern two
interrelated basic questions that a translator and exegete face here: First, in
what mood are the pertinent clauses of this psalm speaking?5 Second, how does
one combine the different expressions: Is it a
prayer for a blessing for
4 Frank Crusemann, Studien zur Formgeschichte von Hymnus und Danklied in
Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, trans. Hilton C. Oswald (
Fortress, 1993), 40.
5 Cf., Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100, WBC 20 (Dallas: Word, 1990), 154-55;
Beat Weber, "Psalm LXVII: Anmerkungen zum Text selbst und zur Smilie von W.
Beyerlin," Vetus Testamentum 43 (1993): 561.
6 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 40. Cf.J. Ridderbos, De Psalmen: Vertaald en Verklaard,
14 Psalm 42-106, COT (Kampen: Kok,
1958), 177-78; A A
Psalms, I, Psalms 1-72, NCeB (London: Oliphants, 1972),479,480; Tate, Psalms 51-100,
Craig C. Broyles, Psalms, New International
Biblical Commentary (
Hendrickson, 1999), 277; etc.
292 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
an open invitation to the nations to join the songs of praise,7 or a communal
hymn of thanksgiving for the blessing of a good harvest?8 A survey of modern
translations shows great variation in the answers given.
To address these basic issues, we will first present the Hebrew text of the
psalm with a translation and grammatical observations. Then we will review
representative translations of vv. 2, 7, and 8. These translations will be the start-
ing point for further linguistic and exegetical analysis, undertaken to find inter-
pretive controls in the text itself. Thereafter, related exegetical and theological
matters will come under consideration.
1. Hebrew Text and Translations
1.1. Hebrew Text of Psalm 67, Translation, and Grammatical
and “Actors" Translation Text
nonverbal To the choir leader. With strings. tnoygin;Bi Hcenam;la Ps 67:1a
A Psalm. A hymn. :rywi rOmz;mi Ps 67:1b
3 sg. masc. + 1 pl. suf.
X-yiqtol God, may he show mercy to us, Unn.eHAy; Myhilox< Ps 67:2a
we-yiqtol and may he bless us. Unker;bAyvi Ps 67:2b
O-yiqtol May he make his face shine upon us UnTAxi vynApA rxeyA Ps 67:2c
("Sela") :hlAs, Ps 67:2d
7 N. A. van Uchelen, Psalmen, deel II; POT (Nijkerk: Callen bach, 1977), 184. Cf.
Generale Synode der Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk, Klare Wijn. Reklenschap over
geschiedenis, geheim en gezag van de Bijbel's (Gravenhage: Boekencentrum, 1967),
93 (English translation: The Bible Speaks Again: A Guide from Holland, Commissioned
8 Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen,4 HKAT (
1926), 280. Cf., Rudolf Kittel, Die Psalmen: Ubersetzt und erklart (
Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1914), 247 (Erntedanklied); Elmer A Leslie, Psalms: Translated and
Interpreted in the Light of Hebrew Life and Worship (
1949), 111; William R Taylor, 'The Book of Psalms," in Interpreter's Bible (
Abingdon Press, 1955),4:349; Petrus Johannes Nicolaas Smal, Die Universalisme in die
Psalms (Kampen: Kok, 1956), 107; Artur Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, OTL,
trans. Herbert Hartwell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), 472; Sigmund Mowinckel, The
Psalms in Israel's Worship, trans. D. R. Ap-Thomas (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 1:185;
("with a prayer for the future" [67.2]); Leopold Sabourin, The Psalms: Their Origin
and Meaning (Staten Island: Alba House, 1969), 2:195; Franz Marius Theodore de Liagre
Bohl and B. Gemser, De Psalmen:
Teksten Uitleg (Nijkerk: Uitgeverij G. F. Callenbach, 1969), 112; J. P. M. van der Ploeg,
Psalmen: uit de grondtekst vertaald en uitgelegd (Roermond: J. J. Romen &
Zonen, 1971), 1:385; etc.
9 For the abbreviations of the various clause types consult the following key:
X-yiqtol: Subject-yiqtol W-X-yiqtol: v-subject-yiqtol
O-yiqtol: yiqtol on front position Cj.-yiqtol: any conjunction -yiqtol
X-Qatal: Subject -qatal
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 293
3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.
l +inf cstr | so that your way is known
on earth, j~K,r;r.a Cr,xABA tfadalA Ps 67:3a
elliptic | (your salvation among all
the nations. :j~t,fAUwy; MyiOG-lkAB; Ps 67:3b
3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suI.
O-yiqtol Let the peoples praise you, God! Myhilox< Mym>ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:4a
O-yiqtol Let all the peoples praise you! :Ml.AKu Mym.ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:4b
3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.
O-yiqtol Let them rejoice UHm;w;yi Ps 67:5a
we-yiqtol and shout (for joy), the nations Mym.ioxul; Unn.;rayvi Ps 67:5b
Cj.-yiqtol | for you judge the peoples
with equity rOwymi Mym.ifa Fpow;ti-yKi Ps 67:5c
W-X-yiqtol | and lead the nations on
the earth. MHen;Ta Cr,xABA Mymi.xul;U Ps 67:5d
("Sela ") :hlAs, Ps 67:5e
3 plur. + 2 sg. masc. suf.
O-yiqtol Let the peoples praise you, God! Myhilox< Mym.ifa j~UdOy Ps 67:6a
O-yiqtol Let all the peoples praise you! :Ml.AKu Mymi.fa j~UdOy Ps 67:6b
3 sg. fem + 3 sg. masc + 1 plur. suf.
X-Qatal The land having yielded its harvest, h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, Ps 67:7a
O-yiqtol may God, our God, bless us. :Unynielox< Myhilox< UnkEr;bAy; Ps 67:7b
3 sg. masc. + 1 plur. + 3 plor. suf.
O-yiqtol May God bless us Myhilox< Unker;bAy; Ps 67:8a
we-yiqtol so that all the ends of the
earth :Cl,xA-ysep;xa-lKA Otxo Uxr;yyiv; Ps 67:8b
may revere him.
Our main reason for undertaking a close analysis of Psalm 67 springs from
the interrelatedness of the linguistic and theological questions that bear on the
translation of its last two verses. As will be demonstrated, the existing transla-
tions of Psalm 67:2, 7, and 8 show that remarkably different choices have been
made in the rendering of the verbal forms of the Hebrew text. Three different
verbal forms are at issue: the qatal (perfect) verb hnAt;nA ("it has given ") in verse
7 a; the clause initial yiqtol (imperfect; modal) verbs rxeyA ("may he make shine ")
in verse 2c and Unker;bAy; ("may he bless us") in verses 7b and 8a; and the weyiqtol
(modal) verbs Unker;bAyvi ("and may he bless us") in verse 2a and Uxr;yyiv; ("and
may they fear") in verse 8b.
294 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
1.2. Survey of Representative Translations of Psalm 67:2, 7, and 8
Both newer and older translations exhibit great variation in which they ren-
der these forms. Except for Hermann Gunkel,10 Diethelm Michel,11 Walter
Beyerlin,12 Bernardus Dirk Eerdmans13 and Elmer A Leslie,14 all translations
presented below render the verbs of verse 2 with some kind of modality.
However, their treatment of the yiqtol verbs in verses 7b and 8 differ greatly.
Apparently, most translators feel no need to translate the clause initial yiqtol
verb Unker;bAy; in verses 7b and 8a in the same manner as the clause initial short-
ened yiqtol verb rxeyA in verse 2c.
Some translations of verses 2 (yiqtol), 7 (X-qatal; yiqtol) and 8 (yiqtol):
 Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette15
2: Gott sei uns gnadig, und segn' uns,
Er lasse sein Angesicht gegen uns leuchten.
. . .
7: Die Erde gibt ihren Ertrag; Uns segnet Gott,
unser Gott. present - present
8: Uns segnet Gott. Und ihn furchten alle Enden
der Erde. present - present
 Franz Delitzsch16
2: Elohim sei uns hold und segne uns,
Er lasse leuchten sein Antlitz bei uns--. . .
7: Der Erde hat gegeben ihre Frucht--Segnen wird uns
Elohim user Gott17 perfect - future
8: Segnen wild uns Elohim, und furchten werden ihn
alle Enden der Erde. future - future
10 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280.
11 Diethelm Michel, Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen, Abhandlungen
zur Evangelischen Theologie,1 (Bonn: H. Bouvier u. CO Verlag, 1960), 115-16.
12 Walter Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen: Psalm LXVII und CXV: ein
Entwicklungszusammenhang, Supplements to Vetus
Testamentum, 45 (
13 Bernardus Dirk Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, Oudtestamentische
Studien, 4 (Leiden: Brill, 1947),21.
14 Leslie, The Psalms, 111-12.
15 Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen nebst
beigefuhrter Ubersetzung; ed. G. Baur (18111; reprint,
16 Franz Delitzsch, Biblischer Commentar uber die Psalmen. Erste Halfte:
Psalm I-.LXXII3 (Leipzig: Dorffling und Franke, 1873), 459-60.
17 Francis Bolten (Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms
translation of v. 7b as a present: "Elohim our God doth bless us.”
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 295
 Hermann Gunkel18
2: Jahve war uns gnadig und segnete uns,19
lieB leuchten sein Antlitz bei uins. . .
7: das Land gab seinen Ertrag, uns segnete 'Jahve,'
unser Gott. past - past
8: 'Jahve' segnete uns; so sollen ihn ehren alle Enden
der Erde!20 past -modal (obligation)
 Bernard us Dirk Eerdmans21
2: Elohim is merciful unto us and blesseth us
and causeth his face to shine with us. . .
7: The earth has yielded her increase, Elohim our God
blesseth us. past - present
8: Elohim blesseth us, so all the ends of the earth
fear him. present -modal (result)
 Elmer A. Leslie22
2: God has been gracious to us and blessed us,
and caused His face to shine upon us . . .
7: The earth has yielded its produce: God, our God,
has blessed us; past - past
8: God blesses us, and all the ends of the earth shall
fear Him. present -modal (obligation)
 Artur Weiser23
2: May God be gracious and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us . . .
7: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God,
blesses us. perfect -present
8: May God bless us! Let all the ends of the earth
fear him! modal- modal (wish)
18 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280.
19 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281, emends the yiqtol verb Unn.eHAy; to a qatol Unn.AHa,
and the following weyiqtol verb Unker;bAyvi to a wayyiqtol Unker;bAy;va. For a similar
position see: Taylor, “The Books of Psalms," 4:352.
20 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281, argues that the meaning of the yiqtol verbs
Unker;bAy; in vv. 7b-8a is determined by the qatol verb hnAt;nA in v. 7a. In his judgment,
these yiqtol verbs may be read as poetic aorists or emended to read UnkAr;Be (cf. KeBler).
21 Eerdmans, The Hebrew Book of Psalms, 21.
22 Leslie, The Psalms, 111-12.
23 Weiser, The Psalms, 472.
296 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
 Hans-Joachim Kraus (German edition)24
2: 'Jahwe' sei uns gnadig und segne uns,
er lasse sein Antlitz leuchten bei uns. . .
. . .
unser Gott! past -past
8: Es segnete uns 'Jahwe'; past
und es sollen ihn furchten alle Enden der Erde! modal (obligation)
 Hans-Joachim Kraus (German Fifth Edition; English translation)25
2: May 'Yahweh' be gracious to us and bless us,
may he let his countenance shine among us. . .
. . .
7: May the land yield its increase! May 'Yahweh,' our God,
bless us! modal- modal
8: May 'Yahweh' bless us; Let all the ends of the earth
fear him!26 modal- modal
 Jan Ridderbos27
2: God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,
Hij doe zijn aanschijn bij ons lichten. . .
. . .
7: Het land zal zijn opbrengst geven, perfect of confidence
God, onze God, zal ons zegenen, future
8: God zal ons zegenen, en alle einden der aarde
zullen Hem vrezen! future - future(?)
 N. A. van Uchelen28
2: God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,
. . .
7: het land geeft zijn opbrengst, God,onze God,
zegent ons. present - present
8: God zegene ons, opdat de einden der aarde
Hem vrezen. modal (wish)
24 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, L Teilband, BKAT, XV/I (Neukirchen:
Neukirchener Verlag, 1960), 461.
25 Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150: A Continental Commentary, trans. Hilton
C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 39.
26 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 10, n 29, critiques Kraus' failure to justify
grammatically the jussive reading of v. 7a.
27 J. Ridderbos, De Psalmen, 2: 177.
28 N.A. van Ucbelen, Psalmen, deel II, POT (Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1977), 182.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 297
 J. P. M. van der Ploeg29
2: God zij ons barmhartigen zegene ons,
Hij late zijn Aangezicht over ons lichten. . .
. . .
7: Het land heeft zijn oogst gegeven: God, onze God,
schonk ons zegen past -past
8: God zegene ons; 0 mogen alle einden der aarde
Hem vrezen! modal - modal (wish)
 Walter Beyerlin30
2: Jahwe segnet uns gnadiglich,
ist uns wohlgesinnt, was unsere Pflugscharen betrifft. . .
. . .
Es segnet uns Jahwe, unser Gott. present
8: Es segnet uns Jahwe. present
Also mussen ihn furchten alle Enden der Erde. modal (obligation)
 Diethelm Michel31
2: Gott ist uns gnadig und segnet uns;
er laBt sein Angesicht bei uns leuchten. . .
. . .
es segnet uns Gott, unser Gott. present
8: Es segnet uns Gott, present
furchten mussen ihn alle Enden der Erde. modal (obligation)
 Mitchell Dahood32
2: May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he cause his face to shine
may he come to us.
. . .
7: May the earth yield her produce,33 may God, our
God, bless us. precative perfect -modal
8: May God bless us, all the ends of the earth revere him. modal (wish)
29 van der Ploeg, Psalmen, 1:385.
30 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 40.
31 Diethelm Michel, Tempora und Satzstellung in den Psalmen, Abhandlungen zur
Evangelischen Theologie, 1 (Bonn: H. Bouvier u. CO Verlag, 1960), 115-16. Cf. Crusemann,
Studien zur Formgeschimte von Hymnus und Danklied in Israel, 201.
32 Mitchell Dahood, Psalms II, 51-100: A New Translation with Introduction and
Commentary, AB, 17 (Garden City: Doubleday, 1973), 126.
33 Dahood, Psalms II; 129, reads the qatol verb hnAt;nA as a precative perfect. cf., NJPS;
Moses Buttenwieser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated with a New Translation (New
298 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
2: May God be gracious and bless us;
may he make his face to shine among us. . .
. . .
7: The earth yields its harvest! perfect of experience
Continue to bless us, a God, our God. progressive jussive
8: May God bless us-And all the ends of the earth
will fear him! modal - future
2: May God be gracious to us
and make his face to shine upon us. . .
. . .
7: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God
has blessed us. perfect - perfect
8: God has blessed us; let all the ends of the
earth fear him! perfect - modal (wish)
2: God be gracious to us and bless us,
God make his face shine upon us. . .
. . .
7: The earth has given its increase and God, our God,
will bless us. perfect - future
8: God grant us his blessing that all the ends of the
earth may fear rum. modal - modal (purpose)
2: God be gracious to us and bless us,
God make his face shine upon us. . .
7: The earth has yielded its harvest. May God, our
God, bless us, perfect - modal
8: God grant us his blessing that all the ends of the
earth may fear him. modal - modal (purpose)
 NIV (cf., KJV)
2: May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us. . .
. . .
7: Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God
will bless us, future - future
8: God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will
fear him. future - future
34 Tate, Psalms 51-100, 153.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 299
 NRSV (cf., NJB)
2: May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us. . .
. . .
7: The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God has
blessed us; perfect -perfect
8: May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the
earth revere him. modal- modal (wish)
2: May God be gracious to us and bless us;
may God's face shine upon us. . .
. . .
7: The earth has yielded its harvest; God, our God,
blesses us. past -present
8: May God bless us still; modal (wish)
that the ends of the earth may revere our God. modal (purpose)
2: God zij ons genadig en zegene ons,
Hij doe zijn aanschijn bij ons lichten. . .
. . .
7: De aarde gat haar gewas, God, onze God
zegent ons; past - present
8: God zegent ons opdat alle einden der aarde
Hem vrezen. present -modal (purpose)
 KBS 1975
2: God zij ons genadig, Hij zegene ons, . . .
. . .
7: De aarde gaf haar gewas: God onze God wil
ons zegenen. past - modal (wish)
8: Hij wil ons zegenen, God. . . . modal (intention)
 KBS 1995
2: Wees ons genadig, schenk ons uw zegen, God, . . .
. . .
7: De aarde brengt haar vruchten op; God, onze
God zegent ons. present - present
8: God regent ons;. . . present
This variety of translations is an invitation to reconsider some closely inter-
related questions in the reading of this psalm:
The linguistic question: Is Hebrew syntax really so free that almost
"anything goes"? That may be more or less the traditional point of view, but if that
is the case, it poses a real problem for translators. On what can or should
translators base a choice?
300 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
The literary question: Is the interpretation and the translation of the psalm
a matter of literary genre or of grammar and linguistics? Those who view the
psalm as a hymn of praise or as a song of thanksgiving for a harvest tend to
slight grammar and translate the clauses that speak of blessing (w. 2, 7b-8b) in
the past or perfect tenses. This dominant form-critical approach, however,
poses a problem for linguists.
The theological question: Is the translation to be decided on the basis of the
theological point of view the translator has adopted relative to the psalm? One
may, for example, hold the view that according to the text of this psalm the
blessing of the land yielding its harvest can in and by itself be enjoyed by peo-
ple--whomever and whenever. Or one can hold the view that the blessing of
here in focus is connected with
nations, her unique relationship with God, and therefore cannot be rightly,
understood apart from
and return. This approach poses a problem for the exegete since the psalm
seems to explain God's blessing by two very different themes ('you [God]
judge the peoples with equity," v. 5c, and "the land has yielded its harvest," v. 7a)
and the connection between these two is left unclarified.
It is interesting to note that already in much earlier exegetical work, for
instance in de Wette's commentary, this difference of opinion existed.
According to de Wette, Psalm 67 is a general hymn that praises God and asks
for his blessing.35 Therefore, in his comment on the verb hnAt;nA in verse 7a he adopts
a present translation, "gives," and rejects J. Hitzig's36 past translation, "gave," on
the grounds that a past translation would make the psalm a song of thanksgiv-
ing for the harvest:37
7. Gives] Hitzig: gave, as if the Psalm were a harvest song (cf., Ps. 65, 10).38
For the purpose of this article, it is important to underscore that the only
warrant that de Wette's comment offers for the rejection of Hitzig's translation
is the observation concerning the psalm's genre: It is not a song of thanksgiv-
ing for a harvest. He presents no discussion of the verbal forms as such.
However, why would a translation of the qatol verb hnAt;nA in the past tense auto-
matically turn the psalm into a thanksgiving song for a harvest?
35 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen. In the introduction to his commentary de Wette
mentions Ps. 67 with other hymns (p. 3): "Hymnen, in welchen Jehova gepriesen wird, . . . 3) als
VolksGott,Ps. 47. 66. 67. 75" ("Hymns, in which Jehovah is praised, . . . 3) as the God of the nations,
Ps.. 47; 66; 67; 75"). In his exposition of Ps. 67 (p. 355), he Writes: "Ein Hymnus auf Jehova, ohne
besondere Veranlassung, warscheinlich fur den
Tempel bestimmt. Bitte um Gnade fur das Yolk
damit die fremden Nationen Jehova erkennen (Vs. 2.3)" ("A hymn to Jehovah, without a specific
occasion, that was apparently designed for the temple. A prayer for grace on behalf of the people
36 J. Hitzig, Die Psalmen. Historisch-kritische Commentar nebst Ubersetzung
37 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 301
In any case, de Wette's negative evaluation of Hitzig's past translation
of the qatol verb hnAt;nA clearly demonstrates that the first person to face the difficulties
of grammar and theology in Psalm 67 is the translator. Any translator who
chooses one of the renderings presented above (§ 1:2)—of which, with the
exception of the REB (# 18), in our opinion, have difficulties in handling con-
sistently the syntax of mood and tenses--runs the risk of determining the
theological understanding of the psalm before his readers have even a chance
to formulate it themselves.
In the textual analysis that follows, we will search for linguistic arguments
that support the translation already proposed above (§ 1.1). This linguistic data
will also be helpful for exegetical analysis of the text in general. In section three,
we will return to the issue concerning the relationship of blessing, harvest, and
2. Textual Analysis
For the linguistic and the exegetical analysis of Psalm 67, it is important to
give close attention to its syntax, its literary form, and the actors involved. Of
special interest is the use made of verbal forms and the clause type of verse 7a.
2.1. Linguistic Data
2.1.1. Compositional Structure
In his form-critical analysis of Psalm 67, Hermann Gunkel suggested that the
text of the psalm is incomplete. He felt that the refrain of verses 4 and 6 should
be added again at the end.39
Older and more recent rhetorical analysis, however, has observed the con-
centric structure of verses 4 through 6, with verses 4 and 6 framing verse 5.40 In
38 Ibid. "7. Gibt] Hitzig: gab, als ware der Ps. ein Emtelied (cf., Ps. 65, 10)."
39 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281. cf. Bernhard Duhrn, Die Psalmen, KHKAT (
van J .C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1899), 174; de Liagre Bohl and
Gemser, DePsalmen, 33; Leslie, The Psalms, 112; Edward J. Kissane, The Book of Psalms:
Translated from a Critically Revised Hebrew Text, vol. I, Psalms 1- 72
(Dublin: Browne and Noland Ltd., 1953), 285; Taylor, 'The Book of the Psalms," 4:349.
40 Cf., Nils W. Lund, "Chiasmus in the Psalms, The American Journal of Semitic
Languages and Literature 49 (1933): 289; idem, Chiasmus in the New Testament: A
Study in Formgeschicthe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1942), 97-98;
Grusemann, Studien zur Formgeschichte, 199-200; R. L. Alden, "Chiastic Psalms (II): A
Study in the Mechanics of Semitic Poetry in Psalms 51-100," Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 19 (1976): 194-95; Peter van der Lugt, Strofische Structuren in de
Bijbels Hebreeuwse Poezie: de geschiedenis van het onderzoek en een bijdrage tot de
strofenbouw van de psalmen, Dissertationes Neerlandicae Series Theologica (Kampen:
Kok, 1980), 304; Tate, Psalms 51-100, 155 (he refers to Crusemann); Beyerlin, Im Licht
der Traditionen, 10-13 and 40; Weber, "Psalm LXVII," 559-561;W. S. Prinsloo, "Psalm
67: Harvest Thanksgiving Psalm, (eschatological) Hymn, Communal Prayer, Communal
Lamentor . . .?" Old Testament Essays 7 (1994): 238; J. Clinton McCann, Jr., 'The Book
of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," in New Interpreter's Bible
(Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 4:939; etc.
302 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
identical words, verses 4 and 6 repeat the wish that God's praise extend to the
peoples. The reason why is given in verse 5, the pivotal verse of the psalm: The
nations should praise and shout for joy because God judges them with equity
and leads them.41 The concentric structure in the psalm can be elaborated fur-
ther. The echoes of the priestly blessing are restricted to the beginning of the
psalm (v. 2) and its end (v. 7b-8a). So these verses, in turn, frame the central
block of verses 4 through 6 to form the following concentric structure that
focuses attention on verse 5 as the centerpiece of the psalm:42
2a God, may he show mercy to us,
b and may he bless us.
A c May he make his face shine upon us
3a | (so that your way is known on earth (Cr,x,),
b your salvation among all the nations (MyiOG).
B 4a Let the peoples (Mym.ifa) praise you, God!
b Let all the peoples (Mymifa) praise you!
5aLet them rejoice
C b and shout (for joy), the nations (Mymi.xul;)
c (because you judge the peoples (Mym.ifa) with equity
d and lead the nations (Mymi.xul;) on the earth (Cr,x,).
B' 6a. Let the peoples (Mymi.fa) praise you, God!
b Let all the peoples (Mymi.fa) praise you!
7a The land (Cr,x,) having yielded its harvest,
A' b may God, our God, bless us.
c May God bless us
d so that all the ends of the earth (Cr,x,) may revere him.
It is important to observe that within this rhetorical architecture of the
psalm a number of shifts occur. In verses 2 and 7 through 8 the same set of
actors is present. The participants are "He" (God) and "us." In verses 3 to 6, the
idiom and the set of actors is different: "You" (God) and "they" (the nations).
This change in idiom and in the set of actors makes a comparison with the text
of the Aaronic benediction of particular interest. As here, so in Numbers 6:24-26,
the blessing is located in a context of two main actors. In Numbers 6:24-26, the
actors are "Yahweh" and "you" (singular!), the individual members of the com-
"God" /"He" and "us" (verses 2, 7b-8). Moreover, it is important to note astrik-
41 The concentric structure of vv. 4-6 is supported by the symmetrical sequence of
the seven-fold references to "the peoples": Mymi.fa . . . Mym.ifa (v. 4). . . Mymixul;. . . Mymif.a
. . .Mymixul; (v. 5). . . Mymi.fa . . . Mymi.fa (v. 6). Cf. Paul R Raabe, Psalm Structures: A
Study of Psalms with Refrains, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement
Series, 104 (Sheffield: jSOT Press, 1990), 200.
42 Beyerlin, Im Licht der Traditionen, 13 and 40; McCann, Jr., "The Book of
Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," 4:939.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 303
ing double shift in actors in verses 3 to 6: from "God"/"He" to "you" ("God")
and from "us" (
the dialogue of
at the same time the role of the other actors on stage, the nations, is empha-
sized. The nations should see the blessing, understand, rejoice, and revere.
With references to "the earth," "the nations," "the peoples," and "all the ends
of the earth" in verses 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8b, the stage has been greatly enlarged.
Thus while the echo of the priestly blessing in verse 2 may suggest a
liturgical setting, the psalm neither mentions the priest, whose role it was to pro-
nounce the blessing, nor the Name to be laid on the
Numbers 6:27 prescribes. Clearly, the scene is much broader than the liturgical
moment of the priestly blessing. The psalm can better be regarded as a song of
the community in response to a particular blessing experienced in history.
In view of the above observations, the importance of verse 8 becomes
known. Already in verse 7b the psalm returns to the first set of actors: May "He"
bless "us." However, in verse 8 one finds the combination of all the actors on
stage: "May God bless us, that all the ends of the earth (they) may fear Him!"
Thus while the rhetorical composition of the psalm may indeed have a con-
centric structure, the shift in the set of actors means that the concluding verses
of the psalm (vv. 7b-8) do not merely repeat its opening lines (vv. 2-3). Rather,
it ends by integrating the roles of all the actors.
That still leaves one special clause, namely, verse 7a: 'The land has yielded
its harvest." What is the meaning of this clause in this context? To whom is this
message directed? The qatol form of the verb hnAt;nA is of particular interest and
could contain the clue to the psalm's interpretation. How is it to be under-
stood? Is it to be read as referring to the past (Gunkel: expressive of thanksgiv-
ing), to the present (de Wette: expressive of present experience of blessing), to
a wish (
NIV suggests? Before we can address that question, we need to examine the syn-
tax of the text as a whole.
2.1.2. Clause Types and Verbal Forms
The text of Psalm 67 is dominated by the use of yiqtol and weyiqtol verbal
forms (fourteen clauses out of nineteen--leaving aside two cases of hlAs,) a
majority of them (eleven) occupying the initial position in their clauses. A spe-
cial difficulty with the translation of yiqtol verbal forms is the fact that one does
not always find sufficient morphological clues to decide in a particular text
whether these are indicative or modal verbs. With first-person verbs, one may
find the form extended by a h-A, the so-called cohortative. With other verbal lex-
emes, one may meet the shortened form of the second- or third-person yiqtol
the so-called jussive (as in vynAPA rxeyA; v. 2c). However, in the case of the usual yiq-
tol verbal form, such as UHm;w;yi (v. 5b) and Unker;bAy; (vv. 7b, 8a), modality is not
304 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Alviero Niccacci has suggested that one should search for syntactical
marker of modality in addition to the morphological ones.43 In our judgment,
two of the syntactical markers of a modal yiqtol verb that he proposes apply to the text
of Psalm 67-first, when the third-person yiqtol form occupies the initial position
in a clause (e.g. j~UdOy vv. 4 and 6), and second, when the yiqtol is continued
by a weyiqtol (as in vv. 2b, 5b and 8b). We are aware that with poetry one has to
be careful, since syntax may be overruled by a particular rhetorical design, such
as fronting or chiasm. We believe, however, that the syntactical markers
Niccacci has identified are valid for the interpretation of Psalm 67.
We have already pointed out that most translations quoted above (§ 1.2)
accept modality in their reading of verse 2. The problems are with verses 7b and
8a, where, in spite of the fact that the same yiqtol verbal form Unker;bAy; occupies
the initial position in each clause, translations differ widely. The identical verb
is rendered "has blessed," "did bless," "may X bless," "blesses," and “will bless."
This variety in translation leads to the conclusion that the lack of morphologi-
cal marking has clearly been taken as an opportunity to translate in accord with
one's exegetical preferences. In our view, that is not a valid practice. To warrant
this judgment, we will focus the reader's attention on verse 7a.
Verse 7a is a crucial clause for the translation and interpretation of Psalm 67.
Apart from it, one could read this psalm as a prayer for God's blessing and an
invitation to all nations to praise him because of his blessings. However, its
presence cannot be ignored--both what it states and its linguistic form is unexpected.
We must first consider the clause type that verse 7a represents. Here the
subject (Cr,x,, "earth," "land"), rather than the verb (hnAt;nA, "she gives") is in the
clause initial position, and this verb has a qatol form in distinction from the vast
majority of yiqtol and weyiqtol verbal forms. In fact, it is the only qatol verb
employed in Psalm 67! Why does this fronting of the subject occur, and why is
the qatol verbal form used?
Next we need to consider why the subject Cr,x, stands here without the def-
inite article such as is implied in the pointing of this noun in verses 3a (Cr,xABA,
"on the earth") and 5d (Cr,xABA). This fact, together with the combination of
"earth" and "harvest" suggest that with the word Cr,x, a new entity is being intro-
duced. Verses 3a and 5d speak of the earth as the habitation of peoples, but in
verse 7a, the noun refers to cultivated land, to soil or ground yielding its har-
45 A Niccacci, "A Neglected Point of Hebrew Syntax: Yiqtol and Position in the
Sentence," Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Liber Annuus 37 (1987): 7-19. For other
opinions see: H. Jagersma, "Some remarks on the jussive in Numbers -26" in Von
Kanaan bis Kerala (Fs. J. P.M. van der Ploeg), eds. W.C. Delsman, J. T. Nelis, J.
R T. M. Peters, W. H. Ph. Romer, A. S. van der Woude, AOAT Bd., 211 (Neukirchen-
Vluyn:NeukirchenerVerlag, 1982), 131-36; and Ch. Hatav, The Semantics of Aspect and
Modality: Evidence from English and Biblical Hebrew, SLCS: Studies in Language
Companion Series, 34 (Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1997), 152-6.1. Cf.
Klaus Seybold, Der aaronitische Segen. Studien zu Numeri 6,22-27 (Neukirchen-
Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag des Erziehungsvereins, 1977), 22-23.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 305
vest. So we have the statement about "the44 land has yielded its harvest" placed
between two exclamations, "Let all the peoples praise you!" (v. 6b) and "May
God bless us!" (v. 7b).
The translations presented above (§ 1.2) show that usually not much atten-
tion is being paid to these important linguistic details. Rather, the translations
have been based on general literary or theological considerations:
As was noted above, de Wette's comments on Hitzig's translation of the
qatol verb hnAt;nA in verse 7a demonstrate that Psalm 67 was already at that
time interpreted in terms of a ceremony of thanksgiving on the occasion of the summer
harvest.45 Later Gunkel classified the psalm as a song of thanksgiving for a har-
vest festival (ErnteDanklied).46 To support this classification, Gunkel was forced
to resort to textual emendation of the yiqtol verbs of verse 2.47
A more theological variation to the concept of a grain harvest is the
idea that the psalm refers to eschatological times when all peoples will make a pilgrim-
although one need not exclude such a reading out of hand as an option in the
psalm's later employment, it does not offer much help for linguistic analysis of
the text. Translations based on this view also render both the qatol and the yiqtol
verbal forms of verse 7 in the present tense, as if there were no difference here
both in verbal form and clause type.
2.2. "Beyond Form Criticism": Linguistic Analysis
It is clear that a premature interest in the psalm's literary genre and its loca-
tion in the history of religion or a premature conclusion as to its theological
import do not encourage close attention to language and grammar as the
source of basic clues for proper reading. Of course, most exegetes would not
deny that methodologically a linguistic analysis of a text should be given prior-
ity over theological interest. It is generally acknowledged that analytical exam-
ination of the language of a text precedes interpretation. Nevertheless, in
practice all interpreters face the difficulty of when arid how to combine analy-
sis and interpretation. We do not wish to suggest that we will provide the final
answer to this complex issue, but we do want to demonstrate one way to move
from linguistic analysis to theological interpretation.
44 In English one cannot avoid introducing the use of the definite article before "land."
45 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356.
46 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 280. For a discussion of Gunkel's position see Kraus,
Psalms 60-150, 40.
47 Gunkel, Die Psalmen, 281. For a critique see: Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 40.
48 Suggested, among others, by van Uchelen, Psalmen, 2: 184. Buttenweiser,
The Psalms, 787, also reads Ps. 67 as an eschatological hymn.
49 H. A Wiersinga, Zendingsperspectief in het Oude Testament (Baarn:
Bosch & Keuning, 1954), 76.
306 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
To that end, we will first search the Old Testament for linguistic parallels to
the text of verse 7a, using the Bible software program Quest.50 Using this com-
puter-search software, we will be concerned to find two types of parallels: (1)
texts with the same or similar idiom (analogies of a lexical type); and (2) texts
with the same or similar grammatical clause type (analogies of a syntactic type) .
2.2.1. Lexical Parallels
To discover lexical parallels to Psalm 67:7a, a "query" was composed that
requested verses that have the verb NtanA, "to give," followed by a maximum of
two words, one of which is to be yriP;, "fruit," or lUby;, "produce," "harvest."51 A
reversed order of the elements was also allowed. The result of the search was
the following collection of lexical parallels, which, for reasons of space, are
listed without their full contexts:
Then the land will yield its fruit h.yAr;Pi Cr,xAha hnAt;nAv; Lev 25:19
And the land will yield its harvest h.lAUby; Cr,xAhA hnAt;nAv; Lev 26:4
And your land will not yield its
harvest h.lAUby;-tx, Mk,c;r;xa NTeti-xlov; Lev 26:20
And the soil will not yield its
harvest h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi xlo hmAdAxEhAv; Dt 11:17
And the land will yield its harvest h.lAUby; NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; Ez 34:27
And the land will yield its harvest h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; Zech 8:12
(The) land has yielded its harvest h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, Ps 67:7
And our land will yield its harvest :h.lAUby; NTeTi Uncer;xav; Ps 85:13
The expression h.lAUby; hnAt;nA Cr,x, in Psalm 67:7a appears to be closely
related to two groups of texts. The first of these consists of texts from the Torah:
Leviticus 25:19 (which concerns the year of Jubilee) and Leviticus 26:4, 20 and
Deuteronomy (which concern the blessings and curses of the covenant
that are contingent on
mandments) .The clustering of the words earth, harvest, and blessing found here
is also present in Psalm 67, but the connection with the commandments of the
Torah is not. What, then, about the second group of texts, namely, Ezekiel 34:27,
Zechariah , and Psalm 85:12, texts in which a successful harvest
belongs to traditional prophetic expectations associated with the renewal of
50 E. Talstra, C. Hardmeier, J. A
Applications for the Hebrew Bible (data base and
retrieval software) (
51 Quest applies a particular type of "queries" that the user can compose
with the help of a subroutine. For details see the manual: J. A Groves, H.J. Bosman,
J. H. Harmsen, E. Talstra, User
Manual Quest: Electronic Concordance Application for the Hebrew Bible
52 Cf. Hos. 2:21-22 [23-24]; Isa. 4:2; 30:23-25; Jer. 31:12; Ezek. 36:29-30.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 307
Ezekiel 34:20-31 announces that God will act as a judge and will appoint a
new shepherd to
God will bring peace and security (vv. 25, 27) to his people. Verse 26 also makes
an explicit reference to "blessing." Rains will bring their blessings (v. 26) and,
as a result, "the trees of the field will yield their fruit and the land will yield its
harvest" (v. 27; cf., Lev. 26:4, 20).
The promise of Ezekiel 34:27 should be compared with Psalm 85:.12:
Indeed, Yahweh will bestow what is good, bOF.ha NTeyi hvAhy;-MGA a
and our land will yield its harvest. :h.lAUby; NTeTi Uncer;xav; b
But an even stronger analogy is present in Zechariah 8:9-13.
This portion of Zechariah's prophecy is framed bywords of encouragement
"Let your hands be strong" (v. 9) and "Do not be afraid, but let your hands be
strong" (v. 13). The new generation is summoned to reflect upon earlier
prophetic words spoken when the temple was being rebuilt (v. 9). Before that
time there were no benefits produced for humans or animals (v. 10). However,
now (v. 11) a new time will begin. God will give prosperity. Verse 12 describes
the new beginning as follows:
because a seed of peace MOlwAha fraz,-yKi a
the vine will yield its fruit, h.yAr;Pi NTeTi Np,G,ha b
the ground will produce its harvest, h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv; c
and the heavens will drop their dew. Ml.AFa UnT;yi Myimw.hav; d
and I will cause the remnant of this
people hl.,xe-lKA-tx, hz.,ha MfAhA tyrixew;-tx, yTil;Han;hiv; e
to possess all these things.
The opening words of this verse (MOlwA.ha fraz,-yKi, "because a seed of the
peace") are difficult. A. S. van der Woude transposes the definite article .ha from
MOlw.Aha and attaches it as a pronominal suffix to fr,za (h.fAr;za, "her seed").53 The
result is a nonverbal clause: MOlwA h.fAr;za ("haar zaaizaad gedijt," "her seed is
fruitful"). In spite of the difficulties,54 the general thrust of the clause cannot be
missed. It is clear that "the vine will yield its fruit (h.yAr;pi NTeTi Np,G,ha), the ground
will yield its harvest (h.lAUby;-tx, NTeTi Cr,xAhAv;), and heavens will give their dew"
(v. 12). Then
hkArAB; Mt,yyih;vi; cf. Hag ; )-a theme elaborated in verses 20-22.
The analogies with postexilic prophecy in terms of both lexical data and the
actors involved suggest another reading of Psalm 67 than that it is just a general
liturgical text expressing the community's gratitude for a good harvest. The
prophetic words speak of a new beginning. After the return from exile and the
53 A.S. van der Woude, Zachariah, POT (Nijkerk: Callenbach, 1984), 142.
54 For a defense of the Massoretic Text, See: R Hanhart, Sacharja, BKAT
Dodekapropheton, 7.1 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1998), 517, 525, 535.
Hanhart translates MOlwAha fraz, as "Same des Friedens" ("seed of peace").
308 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
restoration of the temple, a good harvest is a sign of hope, confirming that,
indeed, a new time has begun. It may well be, therefore, that we have in Psalm
67 an echo of this prophetic word: “The land has yielded its harvest," now may
God bless us (cf. Zech. ), and may it be visible to all the nations. It should
be recalled that Leviticus 26:42 also promised that after the devastation and
exile God would remember the land.
If the analogy of Psalm 67 to the prophetic word in Zechariah ,
based on lexical and syntactical comparison, is accepted as plausible, we must return to
the question of how to read the qatol verbal form of Psalm 67:7a and how this
reading would influence the analysis of the yiqtol verbal forms in verses 7b and
8a. The question is: Are they to be translated as past, as present, or as jussives in
accordance with the same verbal forms in verse 2?
2.2.2. Syntactical Parallels
To propose a solution to this question, it is necessary to find other instances
of clauses in the Old Testament that have a syntactical structure similar to Psalm
67:7: a fronted noun followed by a qatol verb in the first clause and a yiqtol verb
in the next clause. For that, a computer search was made based on the follow-
ing query: a noun, a qatol verbal form, a maximum of two words, and a yiqtol ver-
bal form. This search, under the constraint of a noun in the initial position,
yielded only a small number of texts: but some were found. Comparing them
appears to warrant the conclusion that a qatol-->yiqtol sequence constitutes
a syntactical pattern to be rendered: "when A has happened, B will or should
Two examples suffice to illustrate this sequence. The first example is Amos 3:8:
Has a lion roared, gxAwA hyer;xa a qatol
who would not be afraid? xrAyyi xlo ymi b yiqtol
Has the Sovereign LORD spoken, rB,Di hvihy; ynAdoxE c qatol
who would not prophesy? :xben.Ayi xlo ymi d yiqtol
The second example is Ezekiel 33:16:
Has he done right and justice; hWAfA hqAdAc;U FPAw;mi c qatol
he shall surely live. hy,hyi OyHA d yiqtol
If one removes the constraint of the fronted noun, one finds more instances of
the qatol-->yiqtol type. A few examples are: Psalms 46:7; 56:5; and 77:17.
55 Cf., Delitzsch, Biblischer Commtmtar uber die Psalmen, 1:461; Weber, "Psalm LXVII,
"561. Weber reject Beyerlin's present-tense translation ofvv. 2, 7b-8a because it is based on the
textual emendation of the yiqtol verb rxeyA in v. 2c (p. 8) and, in line with the interpretation of the
qatol - yiqtol sequence proposed in this article, renders v. 7 as: "
gegeben-Jahwe, unser Gott, moge uns wiederum/weiterhin segnen" ("The land has yielded its
harvest-may Yahweh, our God, bless us once more/again").
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 309
The examples found in Amos 3:8 and Ezekiel 33:16 demonstrate the dis-
tinct possibility that a yiqtol clause following a qatol clause can express a modal-
ity. That means that also in Psalm 67:7 and 8 it is possible to translate according
to the syntactical rule proposed by Niccacci, namely, that a modal use of a
clause initial yiqtol verb (v. 8a) is corroborated by the weyiqtol following it (v. 8b).
Therefore, the yiqtol verbs in verses 7 and 8 can be translated modally in a way similar
to verse 2.
7a The land having yielded its harvest, perfect
b may God, our God, bless us. modal
8a May God bless us modal
b so that all the ends of the earth may revere him. modal (purpose)
The fronting of the indefinite noun Cr,x,,. implies the introduction of a new
actor in the text or-in case the actor is known already-an explicit turn to the
actor's role.57 As was noted above (§ 2.1.2), it is "earth" as land that God causes
to yield a harvest. This explicit reference is reflected in the proposed transla-
tion: "The land having yielded. . . ."
It seems to us that the lexical and the syntactical data can be joined to assist
in the interpretation of Psalm 67. A clear analogy to the text of Zechariah 8 is
present. The new times, the time of renewal has begun, as is signaled by the fact
that a new harvest has been given. May God now continue to bless his people,
and may the nations see it and understand what is happening.
We find it of considerable interest that a similar explanation is already men-
tioned in de Wette's commentary. In his introduction to Psalm 67, de Wette58
refers to the work of Heinrich Ewald.59 And Ewald translates verses 7 through
8 with modality:
The earth already gives its fruit: may God, our God, bless us!
May God bless us, so that all earth's bounds may fear him.60
and he comments61:
From the close ver. 7 it is further clear that such high wishes were formed
precisely in a time when the new settlement was snatched from imminent
56 Cf, REB; J.J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms: A New Translation with
explanatory notes for English readers, 9th ed. rev. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901), 279.
57 C. H. J. van der Merwe, J. A Naude, J. H. Kroeze, A Biblical Hebrew Reference
Grammar; Biblical Languages: Hebrew 3 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), § 47.2.b
58 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 335.
59 Heinrich Ewald, Die poetischen Bucher des Allen Bundes. Erster Theil.
Algemeines uber die hebraische
Poesie und uber das Psalmenbuch (
und Ruprecht, 1839). English translation: G. Heinrich A. v. Ewald, Commentary on the Psalms,
trans. E. Johnson (London: WillIams and Norgate,1880).
60 Ewald Die poetischen Bucher: 372 (translation mine) The German reads: "Erde gibt
schon ihre Frucht: segne Gott uns, unser Gott! segne Gott uns, dass ihn furchten alle Erdengrenzen.
61 Ewald, Commentary on the Psalms, 2:199.
310 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
distress by an unexpectedly rich harvest, (therefore plainly enough at the
time of Haggai, see above on Ps. cxxvi) and this first blessing might serve as
pledge for the further greater ones.
As noted earlier, de Wette himself assigns a rather broad cultic function to
Psalm 67, even while mentioning some other views, including that of Ewald. His
comments on Ewald's views are too short, however, to know precisely what he
thinks of them. He writes:
Ewald considers the Psalm to be a pronouncement of the priestly blessing
from the postexilic time of restoration, with a view to the expectations of
the new colony, on the occasion of a plentiful harvest."62
As should be clear from the preceding discussion, it is our view that Ewald's
understanding of the text can be supported. We would emphasize, however, that the
focus is not just on a particular harvest in and by itself. The connection with the
prophetic texts makes clear that the important theme is a harvest experienced as
a sign for
3. Interpretation: Text, Methodology and Theology
3.1. Linguistic Data
Relating Psalm 67:7 to postexilic prophecies of renewal, especially to the
text of Zechariah 8, helps to find a theological position for the psalm where
"blessing," "harvest" and "history" are connected in a meaningful way. Our pro-
posal is to view the psalm in a theological frame of reference similar to the sit-
uation found in postexilic prophecy. There one finds the same extended set of
actors as in Psalm 67:8 interacting on one stage in relationship to God's bless-
When one takes account of what has been observed concerning the syntacti-
cal and lexical relationships of Psalm 67:7 with the texts of Ezekiel 34:27 and
Zechariah 8:12, the first conclusion to be drawn is methodological. It becomes
apparent that translators and exegetes "do not live by assumptions about literary
genre alone." We emphasize not alone. It is a matter of priority. Analysis of the
linguistic features of a text should be done first--both lexical and grammatical.
If one reads Psalm 67 bringing immediately to bear certain assumptions
about the history of religion and cult, one may end up missing the point of
what the composition as a whole is expressing. Of course, with the linguistic
approach we are arguing for one is making assumptions as well. The basic
assumption is that related texts exhibit related idiom, grammar, and actors.
62 de Wette, Commentar uber die Psalmen, 356. "Ewald halt den Ps. fur eine
Ausfuhrung des priesterlichen Segensspruchs aus der Zeit der Wiederherstellung nach
dem Exil, mit Rucksicht auf die Hoffnungen der neuen Colonie, auf Anlass einer reichen
Ernte (Vs. 7)."
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 311
The combination of these elements is important. It is not enough merely to be
able to register a number of identical words. In combination, however, these
linguistic data provide an effective starting point in textual analysis.
3.2. Discourse and History of Religion
By locating Psalm 67 in a recurring cultic ceremony and explaining it as a
song of praise on the occasion of a harvest, one turns the contents of the text
into a general one. Then it merely says: God did bless us; may all nations see it
and be impressed. From this presupposed cultic setting one proceeds immedi-
ately to interpretation. The text's setting is then the interaction of cult and har-
A more formal linguistic and syntactical comparison of Psalm 67 with other
texts in the biblical corpus follows a reverse path. First, one undertakes an
analysis of the text and a comparison with other texts. That makes it possible to
analyze the text as one that participates in a discourse, as a text that takes a
stand in a particular theological dialogue. The psalm's text can be analyzed in
the theological context of postexilic prophecy in Ezekiel, Haggai, and
Zechariah. One can also compare parallels of Psalm 67:5 and 8 with Isaiah
52:10, Psalms 96:13 and Psalm 98:8. Such comparisons produce what one could
call a literary-theological setting of the text.
Assigning the text to a particular time and place, if possible at all, is much
more a matter of hypothesis. For a complete interpretation, that needs to be
tried also,63 but it is a second step in the exegetical procedure. One could, for
example, assume a cultic setting in the second temple where the priestly bless-
ing was pronounced, as is described in the book of Ben Sirah, chapter 50:20-21.
The high priest Simon blessed the community using the Name of God in accor-
dance with the text of the priestly blessing. The Septuagint version of Sirah
speaks of the Name, but refers to God with the word ku<rioj ("Lord"). Simon
"gave the blessing of the LORD (dou?nai eu]logi<an kuri<on) using the name of
the LORD (e]n o]no<mati au]tou?).64 Psalm 67 may have been sung at a similar
occasion, but, of course, this cannot be more than a hypothesis.
However, the exegetical task should properly begin by locating a text
first in the biblical corpus, rather than first in the context of religio-historical assump-
tions. As we see it, the exegetical procedure chosen determines whether one
reads Psalm 67 in terms of a "harvest" as the occasion for an annual harvest fes-
tival or a particularly significant "harvest"
63 Cf., H. G. Jefferson, 'The Date of Psalm LXVII," Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962): 201-5.
64 Cf. Seybold, Der aaronitische Segen, 15.
312 CALVIN THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
A positioning of the text in terms of theological discourse, rather than an
assignment of the text to a cultic setting of ancient religion, will allow modern
readers to interact with the text and to address questions of theological impor-
tance. The main questions the text of Psalm 67 evokes are about the relationship
blessing is expressed by the successful harvest referred to in verse 7a: a blessing
in accordance with the creation order or a blessing of historical significance?
The empirical referent of the declarative statement in Psalm 67:7a is clear:
The land has yielded its harvest. The question is: How does one interpret the
meaning of this successful harvest?
In their interpretation, exegetes may decide to concentrate on a blessing of
God that is experienced as part of the regular pattern of creation (Gen ; cf.
). That is how Kraus reads Psalm 67 in his commentary.65 According to him,
verses 7 and 8 refer to the experience of the ground yielding its fruits, and this
should give reason for a universal recognition of the God of Israel among the
nations.66 Since the setting of this text is a cultic ceremony, Psalm 67 is to be
sung as a response of the community to the priest's pronouncement of the
Kraus' interpretation implies that the emphasis is on God as creator and as
judge and as ruler of the world (verse 5). The nations are dependent on the
same creator as
joyful and reverently acknowledge him.67
Two arguments can be raised against this view. First, it would be the only
case in the list of harvest texts (§ 2.2.1.) with such a direct focus on creation.
The other texts all belong to the idiom of covenantal blessing and curse or the
prophetic idiom of renewal after the exile. Second, as the translations pre-
sented above (§ 1.2) demonstrate, this theological view requires a nonmodal
reading of the yiqtol verbal forms of verses 7 and 8. However, this disturbs the
composition of the psalm, since in verse 2 most translators continue to accept
modality expressed by the yiqtol forms.
The linguistic data discussed above call for an interpretation of Psalm 67
that concentrates on the experience of blessing in a specific historical setting.
The prayer for God's blessing and the wish that God's praise extend to the peo-
ples belong together based on experienced history--a new beginning made
after the exile. The prophetic words of Zechariah 8:12 provide the theological
65 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 41-42. To be fair to him, however, one should note that,
like Delitzsch, he (p. 42) also claims that every harvest is a fulfillment of the promise in Lev 26.4.
66 Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 42.
68 Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute,
Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 500.
PSALM 67: BLESSING, HARVEST, AND HISTORY 313
framework for arriving at an interpretation of life in a new situation. That the
"land has yielded its fruits" is a signal. Dearly God still cares, so may he continue
to give his blessing.
How would the nations fit into this history? Walter Brueggemann, in his
Theology of the Old Testament, offers a proposal.68 He assumes a certain shift
in the actors of the psalm. In verse 2, "May
he bless us" refers to
verses 7 through 8, "may he bless us" includes the "the peoples" as well.
This extension of "us" is an interesting suggestion. One might suppose that
when Psalm 67 is sung in a Christian church the congregation is actually per-
forming the reading suggested by Brueggemann. In our judgment, however, this
extension belongs to the reception of the text rather than to its interpretation.
To be sure, as regards the nations, Psalm 67 comes close to statements that
can be found in Zechariah 8. There, in verse 23, we are told that other peoples
will address members of the restored Jewish community and say to them, "Let
us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you." But they still say
"you" and not "us."
However, even if we are not prepared to follow Brueggemann and read the
nations into the psalm as part of the "us," the moment does come when we get
involved. Even so, we are not involved as participants in the text but as its new
readers. Also, as modern readers, our main challenge in the psalm's interpreta-
tion remains for us to find the proper balance among blessing, harvest, and his-
67 implies that one cannot call a successful harvest a blessing without knowing
one's history--the history of
We should not mistake success in and by itself for salvation or blessing.
Experience with history and prophecy helps to explain the harvest as a sign. It
is a sign that God's history with his people goes on. Equally importantly, it is a
sign that God's history goes on not exclusively with his own people. The func-
tion of this signally important harvest is to catch the attention of the nations and
move them to recognize and praise God. The
particular history of God and
is meant to become a blessing for all--as the prophecy of Zechariah 8 announces.
The words of Psalm 67 about God's blessing constitute the point were crea-
tion and history are in touch.69 The sphere of human experience is not just an
arena of daily competition and of good luck or bad luck. It is the area wherein
God gives his signs as an invitation to participate in his particular history with
69 Cf. the interesting paper on "blessing" as a theological theme on the edge of “nature” and
"history" by H.-P. Muller: "Segen im Alten Testament. Theologische Implikationen eines halb
vergessenen Themas," Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Kirche 87 (1990): 1-32.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Calvin Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org